On March 25, 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued a statewide “stay at home” executive order, effective March 26 at 6:00am through April 11.1 This is the latest, and most far-reaching, in a series of state-level actions taken by Governor Polis in response to the continuing spread of COVID-19 throughout Colorado. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) issued an amended public health order (PHO) accompanying the Governor’s order, which provides essential details on how the executive order will be implemented in Colorado.2 This PHO amends a prior order issued on March 22 that required non-essential businesses to reduce their in-person workforces by 50%. (For more information, see WH Alert, Information for Colorado Businesses.)
Denver and surrounding counties had previously issued virtually identical stay-at-home orders. We discuss below the new provisions of the state order and the ways it differs from local orders.
Impact on County and Local Orders
- Significantly, the executive order expressly does not preempt more-restrictive orders issued by local public health authorities. In other words, the state order establishes a floor but not a ceiling, and “any stay at home or similar order issued by a local jurisdiction remains in full force and effect.”
- As of March 25, twelve counties in Colorado (including Denver) as well as the City of Boulder have issued their own stay-at-home orders.
- The executive order applies similar restrictions on a statewide basis, directing “all Coloradans to stay at home, subject to limited exceptions such as obtaining food and other household necessities, going to and from work at critical businesses, seeking medical care, caring for dependents or pets, or caring for a vulnerable person in another location.”
- The specific directives in CDPHE’s PHO largely mirror the existing restrictions in the Denver order, including ordering individuals to remain at their place of residence (unless engaging in “Necessary Activities”), preventing all public and private gatherings of any number of people outside a residence (unless expressly permitted by the PHO), and prohibiting non-essential travel.
- The PHO also requires individuals experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to self-isolate until their symptoms cease or they have a negative test result.
- Similar to the Denver order’s definition of “Essential Activities,” the PHO defines “Necessary Activities” to include:
- Tasks essential to the health and safety of individuals and family members (including pets);
- Obtaining food, household consumer products, or other necessary services or supplies;
- Outdoor activities such was walking, hiking, biking, or running, provided social distancing requirements are maintained;
- Performing a “Critical Business” or “Critical Government Function”; or
- Caring for a family member, vulnerable person, pet, or livestock at another location.
- Like the Denver order, “Residence” is defined to include hotels, motels, and shared rental facilities.
- In his March 22 order, Governor Polis required non-critical businesses to reduce their in-person workforces by 50%. This order goes a step further, requiring non-critical businesses to close, “except as necessary to engage in minimum basic operations needed to protect assets and maintain personnel functions” (a requirement already applicable to businesses in Denver).
- Similar to the existing Denver order, the PHO defines “minimum basic operations” as activities necessary to “(1) maintain the value of the business’s inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions; or (2) facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their Residences.” Unlike the prior Denver order, there is not a specific carveout for activities to facilitate filling online product orders or processing customer orders remotely.
- “Critical Businesses” are largely exempt from the order and are encouraged to remain open, provided they comply with existing social distancing requirements.
- The list of “Critical Businesses” in the new PHO is more expansive than the list contained in CDPHE’s March 22 order. In addition to the categories previously identified, the new PHO includes:
- Defense suppliers within the category of Defense
- Blood banks within the category of healthcare operations
- Firearms stores as a type of critical retail
- Establishments engaged in the sale of products that support working from home as a type of critical retail
- Animal shelters, boarding services, sanctuaries, and zoos as types of critical services
- The definition of “Critical Government Functions” is also largely unchanged from the prior order, with the exception of the transportation category, which has been broadened.
- The prior order was limited to “transportation lifelines … serving emergency functions.”
- The new PHO encompasses “airlines, taxis, transportation network providers (such as Uber and Lyft), vehicle rental services, paratransit, and other private, public, and commercial transportation and logistics providers necessary for Necessary Activities.”
- Failure to comply with the PHO could result in a fine up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year. However, local authorities are encouraged to use their discretion “to encourage maximum compliance.”